Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari Through Science by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

The title suggests skimming through Science in the way an intrepid surfer rides the waves. This lavishly illustrated book offers far more, from the much admired and loved Australian icon, Dr Karl.

Surfing involves a passion for the sport.  None can deny that the enthusiasm and knowledge Dr. Karl imparts has been a long-held passion, focused on an enormous range of scientific fact. He strives to share his love of science with as many as possible. With this in mind, Surfing Safari is bound to appeal to anyone from 10 to 210!

There are nuggets of fact grounded in science and presented in a readily grasped format.  Serious experiments have determined the way to achieve the perfect Expresso, for example.  The size of the grounds of coffee, the tamping – not too loose or too dense -and water temperature are significant influence.

Surfing waves has variety of course, but surfing with Dr. Karl presents a stunning variety of topics.

Astronomy and Einstein’s Space/Time concept is explained so that even readers without a degree in astrophysics can begin to understand.  A detail aligned to the Space theme is a section dealing with the the Fisher Space pen, which was designed to be used by astronauts wearing their heavy suits and gloves. Developed by the Fisher Pen Company at a cost of $1,000,000 in 1967. Both Russia and NASA used it and eventually reduced the cost of each pen to $2.39. (Office Works price for a highly technical cartridge)!

Increasing relevance today is the Vegan diet. He immediately states that an exclusively plant-based diet is healthy. Vitamin B12, Calcium, Iron and Iodine are easily obtained in dairy and red meat, but Dr. Karl tells us it is quite easy to follow a Vegan diet while having an intake of these supplements, essential for good health.

For us, living on a large island, sand is not in short supply. But in Dubai, it is running out to the extent they import it from Australia. Sand has been used for over 5,500 years by various civilisations. Agriculture, manufacturing, and construction as well as glass and optic fibres require sand. One km of highway uses 25,000 tonnes of sand.  In a fascinating set of statistics, we learn of the insatiable need for sand by China, Singapore and the Middle East. Constructing islands as in the South China Sea and Hong Kong itself requires huge quantities. The solution to this diminishing supply? He suggests substitutes including recycled plastics.

Some pages are devoted to engines – internal (the car) external (steam engine) and the car of today, the electric. He is, like a growing number of car enthusiasts, supportive of the electric car. It means fewer deaths from air pollution, and lower green house gas emissions.  The world, he says, is changing. Petrol driven vehicles will be replaced in serious numbers, this decade. Shenzhen, China, already has 16,000 electric buses in action.

The range of ideas explored is amazing. One that intrigued was entitled “The Gut Bacteria of Marathon Runners”.

There is the fact that spiders can design, build and count, which has been proved in laboratory experiment.

Covid and conspiracy theories are explored, as well as the effects of 3G, 4G and 5G – targets for the suggestion they cause cancer. This is far from possible is shown at the atomic level. Ignorance of such facts leads the way to some adopting strident beliefs.

On a lighter note, fish can be exercised by using a coffee plunger. This has been used in discovering links between fitness, obesity and metabolism in humans.  Though only three pages in length, it is another example of how Dr. Karl chooses amusing subjects; and having gained attention, explains his claim with an array of scientific fact.  This article is accompanied by pictures of zebra fish exercising with weights, a treadmill, and a coach encouraging!

Colourful, entertaining and unfailingly interesting, Surfing Safari should be under many Christmas Trees this year.

A treasured and much-loved Australian scientist, Dr. Karl can inject enthusiasm and passion into the written word.  Curious minds will find his approach irresistible.  His latest book is better than a jungle or surfing safari. It is the adventure of acquiring knowledge without discomfort or danger!

Dr Karl’s Surfing Safari through Science


by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

ABC Books

ISBN 978 0 7333 4033 8

$35.00; 192 pages


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